Theory trumps reality
Catastrophic sea level rise is one of the most valued hole cards played by alarmists in the global warming debate. In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore showed computer generated images of what Manhattan would look like if sea level rose 20 feet. Building on this theme, elevation charts of coastal cities have become a staple in global warming presentations by Al Gore wannabes. But what happens when sea level in the real world does not rise nearly as much as alarmists predict? If you are a NASA-funded gatekeeper of sea level data, you merely doctor the data.
Faced with the embarrassing fact that sea level is not rising nearly as much as has been predicted, the University of Colorado’s NASA-funded Sea Level Research Group has announced it will begin adding a nonexistent 0.3 millimeters per year to its Global Mean Sea Level Time Series. As a result, alarmists will be able to present sea level charts asserting an accelerating rise in sea level that is not occurring in the real world.
Human civilization readily adapted to the seven inches of sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. Alarmists, however, claim global warming will cause sea level to rise much more rapidly during the present century. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) computer models project approximately 15 inches of sea level rise during the 21st century. That’s more than double the sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. A more “mainstream” prediction among alarmists is 3 feet of sea level rise this century. Some alarmists have even projected 20 feet of global sea level rise this century.
Satellite measurements, however, show global sea level rose merely 0.83 inches during the first decade of the 21st century (a pace of just 8 inches for the entire century), and has barely risen at all since 2006. This puts alarmists in the embarrassing position of defending predictions that are not coming true in the real world.
The University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group is coming to their rescue. The NASA-funded group claims glacial melt is removing weight that had been pressing down on land masses, which in turn is causing land mass to rise. This welcome news mitigates sea-level rise from melting glacial ice, meaning sea level will rise less than previously thought. However, it is very inconvenient for alarmist sea level predictions. Therefore, instead of reporting the amount by which sea level is rising in the real world, the Sea Level Research Group has begun adding 0.3 millimeters per year of fictitious sea level rise to “compensate” for rising land mass.
The extra 0.3 millimeters of fictitious sea level rise will add up to 1.2 inches over the course of the 21st century. While this is not monumental in and of itself, it will allow alarmists to paint a dramatically different picture of sea level rise than is occurring in the real world. For example, the current pace of 8 inches of sea level rise for the present century is essentially no different than the 7 inches of sea level rise that occurred last century. However, with an artificially enhanced 9.2 inches of sea level rise, alarmists can claim sea level is rising 31 percent faster than it did last century.
Even under this scenario, sea level is not rising nearly as fast as IPCC and other alarmists have predicted. Nevertheless, a quick Google search of “sea level” and “global warming” shows an overwhelming number of items claiming dramatic and accelerating sea level rise, with very few items reporting that alarmist predictions and computer models are being contradicted by real-world data. The newly adjusted NASA-funded sea level data will merely add fuel to the erring fire.
New paper explains another way that climate is dominated by negative feedbacks
(Global Warmists assume big positive feedbacks)
A paper published today in the Journal of Climate finds that increases in ocean heat transport from the warmer tropics to the poles are unlikely to cause alarmist 'positive feedback' 'tipping point' scenarios as predicted by James Hansen and the IPCC.
The paper finds that increases in ocean heat transport above the current are likely to be offset by increased cloud cover over the tropics, resulting in cooling of the tropics, without inducing significantly warmer climates than today. The paper shows yet another means by which negative feedbacks - not positive - dominate the climate.
Climate sensitivity to changes in ocean heat transport
Marcelo Barreiro et al.
Using an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab ocean we study the effect of ocean heat transport (OHT) on climate prescribing OHT from zero to two times the present-day values. In agreement with previous studies an increase in OHT from zero to present-day conditions warms the climate by decreasing the albedo due to reduced sea-ice extent and marine stratus cloud cover and by increasing the greenhouse effect through a moistening of the atmosphere.
However, when the OHT is further increased the solution becomes highly dependent on a positive radiative feedback between tropical low clouds and sea surface temperature. We found that the strength of the low clouds-SST feedback combined with the model design may produce solutions that are globally colder than Control mainly due to an unrealistically strong equatorial cooling.
Excluding those cases, results indicate that the climate warms only if the OHT increase does not exceed more than 10% of the present-day value in the case of a strong cloud-SST feedback and more than 25% when this feedback is weak.
Larger OHT increases lead to a cold state where low clouds cover most of the deep tropics increasing the tropical albedo and drying the atmosphere.
This suggests that the present-day climate is close to a state where the OHT maximizes its warming effect on climate and pose doubts about the possibility that greater OHT in the past may have induced significantly warmer climates than that of today.
U.S. Temperatures Within Range of Natural Variability, Alarmist Study Finds – Huh?
Al Gore, Greenpeace, and the “consensus of scientists” tell us that global warming endangers agriculture and global food security. A study published last week in Science magazine finds global warming has taken significant bites out of potential global corn and wheat production since 1980.
The study also finds, however, that climate change has not adversely affected U.S. corn and wheat production. How so – because of Yankee ingenuity? Not according to the study. The explanation, rather, is that America has been a “notable exception” to climate change. The USA “experienced a slight cooling” during the study period (1980-2008).
This is bizarre. Here we have an alarmist study that finds a “lack of significant climate trends” in the USA for the past 30 years. If true, that makes hash out of all those dire pronouncements by Gore and others that global warming is already contributing to hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, forest fires, floods, etc. in the USA. Are the study’s authors aware of this implication? Are the editors of Science? Apparently not.
How do the authors know that climate change is depressing corn and wheat production globally, even if not in the USA? The biggest loss in wheat production, according to the study, is in Russia. Do they adjust Russian crop yields for the Russian economic meltown and financial crisis of the 1990s? As far as I can tell, they don’t. I would not bet the farm on the validity of this study.
Published last Friday in Science magazine, Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980 estimates that, had global temperatures remained at the 1960-1980 average, global corn and wheat yields would have been 3.8% and 5.5% higher during 1980 to 2008.
Two things to note right out of the box. First, the study does not say that global crop production is lower today than it was in 1980. Rather, it contends that global crop production would be even higher today had there been no global warming.
Second, since many factors besides temperature and precipitation affect crop production, the validity of the study depends on how skilfully the researchers adjusted crop production data for non-climatic factors. “Among the largest country-specific losses was wheat in Russia (-15%),” according to the study. Smack dab in the middle of the study period (1980-2008) was the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ensuing economic contraction and financial crisis, which persisted through 1998. As my colleague William Yeatman points out, the study makes no mention of these emphatically non-climatic influences on Russian agriculture.....
Although the study will surely be touted by the sky-is-falling lobby, it implicitly contradicts much that alarmists have been preaching. For two-plus decades, the global warming movement has tried to implicate greenhouse gas emissions in every weather-related disaster anywhere in the United States. Alarmists claim to discern greenhouse fingerprints in Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, drought, big snow storms, heat waves, and other manifestations of what they are pleased to call ‘climate disruption.’ Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) goes so far as to argue that greenhouse gas emissions should be presumed guilty of contributing to every extreme weather event until proven innocent.
Yet according to the Science study, from 1980 through 2008, climate change in the United States remained within the range of natural variability.
That puts the study out of step not only with Al Gore, Greenpeace, and Dr. Trenberth, but also with the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
So is the United States warming more rapidly than the rest of the world, as the USGCRP claims, or is America a “notable exception” to global warming, as the Science study contends?
I do not profess to know which assessment is correct. What I can say is that neither the authors of the Science study, nor the editors of Science magazine, nor any of the review articles referenced above address or even acknowledge the discrepancy.
The Science study should confound climate activists more than it gratifies them. If the United States is a ”notable exception” to climate change, then claims that global warming is already taking a toll on U.S. public health and welfare are hard to swallow.
They really do want to take us back to the Dark Ages
'Post-Fossil-Fuel World' Includes Farming With Oxen -- and the old utopian dreams of equality and harmony and warm glows
What's old is new again in rural Virginia, where a new environmental education center is inviting the public to take a look at farming in what it calls the post-fossil-fuel world. The 127-acre Living Energy Farm in Louisa County will show that “it is possible to live a healthy, joyful life without the use of any fossil fuel,” project organizers say.
They hope to set an example while actively promoting a lifestyle and technologies that are “truly sustainable” and available to all people, regardless of income or social position. The lifestyle includes cooperative housing and income-sharing.
On Friday, May 13, the Living Energy Farm will hold an open house to explain its mix of “very old and very new technologies.” Using oxen as draft animals is part of the farm’s zero-fossil-fuel formula. The farm also plans to offer a workshop for “anyone interested in learning how to train their own oxen,” the news release said.
Energy sources at the fledgling farm will range from high density solar to steam power. Home insulation will consist of straw bales. Transportation will consist of bicycles, ox carts and vehicles that allow gasoline engines to run directly off woodchips or other cellulosic debris. And the building design will incorporate cross-ventilation for cooling and passive solar for heating.
No ‘electronic escapism’
According to the center’s Web site, “The most powerful sustainable ‘technology’ we will employ is cooperative housing in an income-sharing community. We will foster a lively community culture that will be an eye-opener for many modern youth. Though we will use some modern machines (such as solar electricity for pumping water), we will not have a general accessibility to electric power. We will pro-actively build a homemade positive social culture without electronic escapism.”
The group says it will try to meet its social and economic needs within the local area, because it wants to avoid using wood-gas vehicles as a replacement for automobiles. “In doing so, we will be actively promoting the rebuilding of local economies which will be so vital to the creation of a post-petroleum world,” the Web site says.
“So many people think that this kind of lifestyle is beyond their reach, or outside of their comfort, and we’re hoping to prove otherwise,” Debbie Piesen, one of the farm’s founders, said in a news release. “And we’re hoping to be so effective that we can help others start similar farms.”
The Living Energy Farm says it will conduct classes, accept interns, and publicize its efforts “far and wide” in the months ahead.
Warmist scientists close their ears to other views
By James Delingpole
Yesterday I was at Downing College, Cambridge, for a Climate Change conference organised by Professor Alan Howard, the scientist/philanthropist/entrepreneur known, inter alia, for having devised the Cambridge diet and for funding the magnificent lecture hall in which the event took place. (For more reporting – and some brilliant cartoons from Josh who sat right next to me sketching in a most impressive way – see Bishop Hill; and many, many thanks to the Howard Trust for organising it.)
The big difference between this and almost any other Climate Change conference is that it was the first – in Britain, anyway, so far as I know – to field a solid team of scientists from both sides of the debate. The Warmists included Professor Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit, Professor Andrew Watson – also of the UEA and Professor John Mitchell, former chief scientist at the Met Office. The Sceptics – Realists if you prefer – included Professor Henrik Svensmark, Professor Nils-Axel Morner, and Professor Ian Plimer. Any mention of “Climategate” announced Prof Howard at the beginning would result in immediate ejection: he wanted to keep this event civil and scientific.
So no, I didn’t go up and introduce myself to Phil Jones as the man who made him world famous. I think he may have given me a long, hard, hollow stare at breakfast yesterday morning; and there was a dodgy moment during a coffee break where he perched his cup near me, suddenly noticed the danger, and fled elsewhere. But I certainly wasn’t going to bother him, not least because I think he cut a rather pitiable figure. His talk – essentially on why the CRU’s adjusted temperature figures are kosher – was slightly nervy and resolutely dull. I got the impression he now wishes climate science were just an apolitical backwater in which yer average PhD could happily eke out his career untroubled by the kind of controversy which has all but ruined Jones’s life.
Some of the presentations were excellent. It was particularly good to hear Professor Svensmark make his compelling case (which no one on the other side could successfully refute) on cosmic rays and cloud formation. But overall, I shared the disappointment expressed by one of the final speakers, Czech President Vaclav Klaus that there had been almost no honest, open debate between the two sides. One side made its case; then the other put its contradictory case. But apart from a bit of snide questioning and the odd sniping shot from the wings, there wasn’t much by way of robust exchanging of ideas. It was more – as Klaus noted – a series of monologues.
You’d have to be very naive, though, to conclude that the fault lay on both sides and that if only they could communicate with one another we’d all attain the sensible middle ground position where wisdom, truth and sweet reasonableness resides. That would be to fall for what I call the “Dog S*** Yoghurt Fallacy.”
It goes like this: one side of this debate thinks that the best thing to put in yoghurt is fruit; the other side is of the view that what really needs to be added to yoghurt is a nice bit of dog poo. Now suppose we were to compromise. Suppose the latter faction were to concede sufficient ground to agree that only a tiny quantity of dog poo should go into the mainly fruit-rich yoghurt, would this constitute a victory for commonsense?
Of course it wouldn’t. Even if just the smallest, smidgen of a fraction of dog poo were to go into that yoghurt it would still be irredeemably tainted. Similar rules apply to the current debate on global warming. On one side – what you might call the fruit side – you have those scientists, economists and, yes, bloggers who maintain that CO2 is a generally beneficial trace gas which encourages plant growth and poses no risk of catastrophic global warming. On the other side – the dog poo side, obviously – you have “scientists”, politicians, spivs, rent-seekers, cranks, whackos, eco-loons, EU fonctionnaires and such like who believe that CO2 poses a major problem to global climate and must be taxed and regulated to oblivion.
Which side is right? One of the very few things which emerged from yesterday’s debate with pellucid clarity was this:
WE DON’T KNOW.
The Warmist scientists are quite capable of talking a good game about their belief system, even to the point – almost – of being persuasive on the subject of their computer “projections” of future global temperatures.
But then, so too are the Sceptics. You’d need to be very set in your belief system indeed to come away from one of Professor Ian Plimer’s feisty, funny engaging lectures and not be convinced that the whole idea of AGW is a complete crock. Same goes for Professor Nils Axel Morner’s hilarious, crazy-Swede lecture on his experiences measuring sea-level rises in the Maldives (there hasn’t been any: whatever the Maldives president and his underwater cabinet tell you). Same also goes for Prof Svensmark: really his cosmic ray theory is gloriously compelling.
In other words there is still an enormous amount of uncertainty out there about the chaotic system which causes climate. But here’s the rub: global policy makers are acting as if there isn’t.
And the reason they’re acting as if there isn’t because, essentially, they have been hijacked by the scientists on the Warmist side who – behaving far more like political activists than dispassionate seekers after truth – have exaggerated the strength of their case, even to the point of tweaking their data and suppressing contradictory research, in order to ensure that their “correct” interpretation of reality is the one that prevails.
This was the whole point of the Climategate scandal and why it mattered. And since Climategate – as we saw from the entirely unapologetic, nay struttingly arrogant in some cases – behaviour of the Warmist scientists present absolutely zip-all has changed.
Hence Dr Klaus’s frustration. Apart from being the only European leader (apart from Hungary’s) worth his salt, Dr Klaus is also an economist and a former serf of a Communist state. He said: “The arrogance of global warming activists and their fellow travellers in politics is something I know well from the past. They wish to suppress truth, control the market and dictate policy and I, who have spent most of my time living under communism feel obliged to warn against it.”
China just talks the green talk while the US walks the green walk
In 2009, despite no cap-and-trade law, no carbon tax and no major reductions mandated by our EPA, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 7.1%, more than in any year since they began tracking emissions in 1949. Meanwhile, China's increased at near-record levels. What gives?
Our nonpartisan Energy Information Administration cites three causes for what happened here: "an economy in recession, a particularly hard-hit energy-intensive industries sector, and a large drop in the price of natural gas that caused fuel switching away from coal to natural gas in the electric power sector."
Two of these factors are directly related to the horrendous economic tailspin that pundits tell us was caused by the subprime mortgage bubble (something history may adjudicate differently). The third is a proverbial green swan. Ten years ago the mantra was we were running out of natural gas. No one anticipated the massive volumes trapped in shale formations underneath the surface of much of the planet, nor the ease with which it can now be fractured out of the rock.
When anticipated supply is sufficiently high, gas undercuts coal as the fuel of choice for electrical generation, which results in reduced carbon dioxide emissions, as natural gas produces only about 50% to 70% of the carbon dioxide per unit output (depending upon your metric) that coal does.
While our emissions drop in spite of our lack of specific policies, China's go up, even as our environmentalist friends have been crowing, for years now, that China is "going green."
There may be glimmers of green in their new (12th) Five Year Plan, which begins this year. But, in reality, the greening of China will require a reversal of current trends that is politically impossible. Chinese citizens want higher wages, cars, energy-hogging television, and air conditioning, just as do people in every other developing economy. Tamping down its torrid growth engine will be very difficult.
What about all these news reports that China is committed to major reductions in emissions? Well, they're not exactly true. If this were Dr. Strangelove, General Turgidson would probably call them "a load of commie bull."
Even in the new Five Year Plan that has my green friends swooning, emissions of carbon dioxide go up by 15%. All the Chinese have ever proposed to do is to in this timeframe is to reduce their emissions "intensity," which is the amount released per unit economic output.
Secret: All developing (and developed) economies reduce their emissions intensity, unless something is really wrong. Simply put, there are incentives to produce things more efficiently, as long as energy feedstocks respond to supply and demand.
That said, China's central planners haven't always bought such bourgeois economics. As a result, between 2001 and now, their emissions intensity actually rose by 14%. Any pronouncement of great drops in their future intensity has to factor in that they have been going in the wrong direction for years.
Here are two charts that tell everything you need to know:
The top one shows that the Chinese emit about five times as much carbon dioxide per unit output as does the U.S. When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, China is by far the world's most inefficient large economy. The red line on that chart reveals that their emissions intensity bottomed out ten years ago and then stayed there.
(Note that the data for these figures comes from the Energy Information Administration and that the top one is based upon market exchange rates. If the renminbi is artificially undervalued by Chinese monetary policy, then the two lines are somewhat closer together).
So if the Chinese are to reduce their intensity by a whopping 50%, they would merely be back on to the trend line that was established in the 1990s. Big deal.
The bottom chart shows carbon dioxide emissions. Note that 2009 emissions in the U.S. were the lowest since 1995 and that our emissions have actually been trending downward since 1999. China's increased by about 175%.
The bottom chart underscores why mandating emissions reductions here is simply inconsequential unless China does the same.
Every few years Congress attempts to pass some type of reduction mandate. These usually schedule a 20% cutback around 2020, 40% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. Note that China increases its emissions by about 10% of the U.S. total every year. So, if we reduce ours by 20% in 2020, the Chinese will have increased their total by four times that amount at the same time.
It looks like China may be talking a green line, but, thanks in part to our economic decline, the U.S. is walking one.
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